Whether it’s climbing, hiking or skiing, more and more of us are buying into the benefits of outdoor living. To enjoy these new pastimes fully it helps to have the right outdoor clothing and gear.
In Ireland we seem to be particularly bad at investing in good quality, outdoor clothing. I personally remember many a day shivering in a sodden gabardine coat and wet socks. Well, those days are behind us with this article on which outdoor clothing is best for sustainability and ethics.
Since I originally article I learned that the certification scheme Bluesign allows the toxic chemical, PFA, in qualifying products, so bear that in mind when choosing a brand.
If you’d like to really deep dive into the nitty gritty of this area check out this in-depth analysis of the environmental impact of outdoor clothing by the UK magazine Ethical consumer
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Before you read on and buy new check out second-hand options on the Outdoor Gear Facebook Group
Where to buy Sustainable Ethical Outdoor Clothing in Europe
Jack Wolfskin is a German company with Irish stockists, making outdoor clothing from recycled materials, free from PFAs, with renewable energy, some of which they generate themselves. The company is also a Bluesign system partner, which is an independent label given to textile production that is more sustainable. They actively seek to minimise packaging and are members of the Sustainable Apparel Coalition, a network of organisations seeking to find more sustainable ways for the clothing industry. They are also members of the Outdoor Industry Microfibre Consortium, which is trying to find an industry solution to microfibres from clothing. They have optimised their transport protocols to reduce emissions and staff are encouraged to travel by train for business instead of flying. Their stores are fitted with locally sourced natural or recyclable materials and include low-energy lighting.
Patagonia is a high-street and online outdoor clothing company that sells clothing and accessories made from recycled soda bottles and organic cotton printed with PVC- and phthalate-free inks. On their website they give details on how they work with factories and mills to ensure ethical work-practices, good working conditions and processes that are less harmful to the environment. They say they are particularly invested in protecting migrant workings and guarding against child labour and human trafficking. The company also gives 1% of their sales to support environmental organizations around the world. They encourage re-wearing of clothes and offer a repair service. They also resell pre-owned clothing in some stores. Sizes 6 – 22.
Sundrift makes backpacks from certified recycled polyester designed specifically to suit the female form. They use recycled packaging and offset the carbon emitted from shipping, by planting trees in the West of Ireland. They currently manufacture in Asia but are hoping to move production closer to Ireland in the future.
Holland / The Netherlands
Maium makes rainwear from recycled materials and offsets their carbon via a tree planting project. They also use recycled and biodegradable materials for packaging and mailing. Sizes XS – XL (women), XS – XL (men)
Ice Breaker is a French company making outdoor wear mostly with natural fabrics (91%) and with some garments that are 100% merino wool. They give details of all their suppliers on their website, some of which they’ve been working with for over 10 years.
Picture Clothing is a French brand of clothing offering organic, recycled & bio-sourced products for snowboarding, skiing, surfing and the outdoors. They recover and re-use all production scraps and raw materials during manufacturing and integrate them into the linings of their jackets. 95% of the cotton they use is certified either GOTS or Organic Content Standard certified. The remaining 5% are made in India with recycled cotton. All of their technical products are made from a minimum average of 50% recycled polyester from plastic bottles and they use the Greenplus Taiwan certification to guarantee recycled rates of each product and Bluesign Approved Fabric to guarantee that they do not contain harmful chemicals. They state that their garments are PFC free and that the factories they work with have all signed the Picture RSL (Restricted Substances List), a list of chemicals that they have banned in their products. They also state that they carry out random tests to make sure the RSL is fully respected. The company also states that the factories they use are all engaged in an improvement process with Fair Wear Foundation and that they visit them 2-3 times a year. The company works to repair garments instead of replacing them and they work with several repair stations throughout the world to deliver that service. You can’t buy from the company directly but i’ve listed them because they are stocked by quite a few online retailers. including Surfdome.ie in Ireland.
Vaude make a range of PFC, and fur-free clothing from materials that include organic cotton, recycled polyester museling-free wool and. Their backpacks and bags are made in Germany. The company’s headquarters has been climate neutral since 2012 and the company has a raft of environmental certificates to their name includes.
Deuter is a German company that makes PFC-free backpacks and sleeping bags, some with bluesign certification. They regularly test their products to make sure they’re free of banned chemicals, only use certified responsible down and 50% of the materials they use is recycled. In 2021 they launched their Infiniti range, made from manufacturing offcuts, donating 1% of the sales to the environmental organisation 1% for the planet. They offer a repair service and sell second-life bags with a 2 year warranty in one of their stores. They are members of the European Outdoor Conservation Association and the Fair Wear Foundation.
Didriksons in Sweden offer PFC-free, timeless, long-lasting garments made with as few materials as possible to aid recycling. Their kids range include an Extend Size function in order to make them fit for longer, and they offer repair kits. They are members of The Swedish Textile Initiative for Climate Change
Houdini (see top photo) make active and skiwear from natural and recycled fabric, which they cover with a lifetime guarantee and take back at the end of their life. Most of their production takes place in Europe using fabrics from Taiwan, Italy and Japan. The company lists their suppliers and factories on their website. They also offer a rental service online and in store. Sizes XXS- XL (women), XS – XL (men)
Lundhags in Sweden make clothing that is free of PFCs and silver ions, from organic cotton, museling-free merino wool, recycled polyester and close-loop tanned leather. They offer a rental service and only produce one collection a year. They accept returns and resell second-hand items in store and online. They also offer a repair service on their boots and the company constantly monitors their carbon footprint and actively works to reduce it.
Fjallraven is an outdoor wear company for both men and women. They design to last and offer a limited repair service along with guides on how best to care and repair their garments. They use materials like recycled wool, recycled polyester, organic hemp and Tencel. They don’t use Fluorocarbons in their clothing and ensure that their down is not obtained using live-plucking. They are members of Sustainable Apparel Coalition (SAC), an industry-wide group of more than 80 leading clothing and footwear companies and NGOs, and the Fair Labor Association (FLA), which promotes workers’ rights and improves working conditions globally. They buy carbon credits for some of their garments and business travel and aim to be carbon neutral by 2025.
Tretorn offers a few garments made from recycled plastic waste salvaged from the sea.
Bragoon is an Italian company offering colourful, unisex rainwear & gaitors in recycled PET, made in Italy and shipped in compostable poly bag in a recycled & recyclable and cardboard box.
Mover is a Swiss company that makes thermal regulating outdoor garments from natural fibres in Europe and Mongolia. The materials they use include Alpaca wool from Switzerland, non-muesling wool from New Zealand and Australia, organic or upcycled cotton from Portugal, and horn buttons from Portugal. organic cotton cords, webbing and plastic-free zips from Turkey. Their woven labels are from Italy and their cardboard boxes are made in Switzerland. Transportation is all over land to minimise emissions and their minimal packaging is, as you’d expect, plastic free.
Swiss company Odlo makes outdoor and active clothing in Fairwear accredited factories in Romania, Portugal Germany using recycled materials, muesling-free wool and ethical down. They reduced emissions from transportation by 70% by relocating some of their production to Germany, and they offset the carbon of every online order they ship directly to customers.
North 66 is an Icelandic brand of long-lasting, multi-functional clothing that’s been carbon neutral since 2019. They offer a repair service for any garment they’ve ever made and they’ll take back any of their garments for resale or recycling. They also have stores in Denmark.
Endura is a Scottish company making outdoor garments that have been PFC free since 2018 and PTFE since 2014. They make their clothing in the UK, some of it from recycled materials. They provide a non-warranty repair service and a biodegradable product to help customers re-waterproof their garments. They have also designed their packaging to be easier to recycle, planted 1.3million trees in Mozambique and 85,000 in Scotland.
Páramo is a UK company that makes it’s outdoor clothing that is completely free of PFCs, in a Fairwear accredited factory in Columbia that provides employment to women at risk of prostitution. They’ve designed their clothes to be long lasting and the waterproofing can be renewed with a water-based product that they sell. The company also offers a resale / recycling scheme for garments sent back by customers. They’ve been offsetting their carbon with the World Land Trust since 2007 and the company are active members of the European Outdoor Conservation Association.
The New Zealand brand Kathmandu, who have stockists in the UK, buy carbon credits to offset their air travel and recycle 100% of their polybags in New Zealand. They also work with small cooperatives that provide employment to disadvantaged individuals and say that they’re working towards being Zero Waste. They have few garments made from recycled fibres and organic cotton, but some are blended fabrics, making them recyclable. They also have a range of hoodies, earth colour, dyed with plant based dyes instead of petrochemical dyes. Sizes 6 – 18 (women), XS – XXL (men)
Millican makes long-lasting backpacks from natural and recycled materials including organic cotton canvas, leather, British wool and recycled polyester. They use long lasting aluminium fixtures instead of plastic and some of their bags are made in the UK.
The Level Collection uses natural, organic and recycled ingredients to create functional products in the UK that are designed to be enjoyed for many years. They hand-make backpacks from weather proof Scottish waxed cotton, which they claim doesn’t crack or transfer onto your clothing or other surfaces. The leather detailing they use is vegetable tanned leather hand-cut in Britain, their strap and lumber padding is wool carpet fibres repurposed in Britain British and their stainless steel buckles are laser cut and polished in their hometown, Sheffield UK. They’ll repair any materials or manufacturing faults free of charge within 3 years of your purchase date of one of their bags and offer a lifetime repair service and warranty on their goods.
If you liked this article, here are some other sustainable buying guides.